FIFA President Sepp Blatter said soccer’s governing body must enact changes to allow the sport to continue the fight against corruption even as some former advisers question the group’s reform plans.
The ruling body’s 209 members will vote on proposed changes this week at FIFA’s annual meeting on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius this week. Blatter said the process follows an “extensive consultation process” that started in 2011, the year when the Zurich-based body was forced by stakeholders including sponsors of its $5 billion World Cup to reform following graft allegations.
“We have a democratic process in place, we follow it,” Blatter said in an interview with FIFA.com. “Between 2011 and 2013, I made a lot of effort to take this reform process as far as I could, but it is now up to the FIFA Congress to decide on these measures.”
Former advisers have criticized FIFA, which Blatter has headed since 1998, for not doing enough to crack down on corruption.
Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, quit as an adviser before the process formally started in 2011. Last month, Alexandra Wrage, president of Trace International, a non-profit organization in Canada that provides anti-bribery compliance advice to multinational companies, left the advisory group created by Blatter to suggest reforms. She claimed the work was the “least productive project” of her career.
In the FIFA interview, Blatter said members will vote on “the majority of the recommendations” made by the Independent Governance Committee, a group headed by Swiss academic Mark Pieth and formed to make suggestions on reform.
The advisers’ recommendations that won’t be voted on at the Congress include disclosure of senior executive pay and adding independent board members and independent integrity checks for new members to FIFA’s decision-making executive committee. Fixed age and term limits also aren’t being voted on. Instead, members will be asked if they’re in favor of such limits.
“None of our items made it onto the agenda,” Wrage said in an April 22 interview. “I don’t need a trip to Mauritius to have them not vote on our issues.”
FIFA was criticized for the 2010 vote by its 24-member executive on the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were won by Russia and Qatar. Two officials were suspended before the poll after being caught up in a probe into vote rigging by London’s Sunday Times.
A year later the only challenger to Blatter’s re-election at the 2011 Congress pulled out a day before an investigation began into claims he tried to bribe Caribbean voters with $40,000 stuffed into envelopes.
In the past few months several more senior FIFA officials, including the head of South American soccer, Nicolas Leoz, and FIFA’s honorary president Joao Havelange, have resigned or face investigation over graft claims stretching back several years. Blatter said the action on the cases is a sign that its new ethics structure, voted through at last year’s Congress, is functioning well.
“That shows the process towards more integrity is on track and nothing will stop it,” Blatter said.